Saturday, March 10, 2012

Learning from marine mammal trainers

I’m in the middle of two weeks out of state shadowing sea lion trainers. (I am planning a detailed post on what that’s been like.) Back home with my dogs this weekend, I find myself enthusiastically applying some new approaches to their training.

  • Plan each session ahead of time. The plan can be very brief: in Jenny’s case, “while I’m in the kitchen making dinner, I’m going to work on her recall from the living room and highly reward it,” or “when I go from the living room into the kitchen for a snack I’m going to work on her ’stay’ command.” But think about it ahead of time and know what your plan is rather than leaving yourself to think “here I am in the kitchen with some good doggy snacks to hand; what shall I do with them?”
  • Know what you hope to accomplish from each session. “When I practice these stays, I want to be able to get out of sight for less than a second without her breaking her stay.”
  • Keep working with your animals even if they are old and already well-trained. Your relationship with them will benefit from it! Jack loves training, and I have been focusing on Jenny and ignoring him.
  • Be patient. Progress can take time. Don’t push it.
The sea lion group I worked with this past week was a well-rehearsed team. They worked animals singly or in pairs, depending on how they were housed, but often had five trainers working a session. Teamwork like that isn’t the norm in the dog training world, of course, because we don’t hire large staffs to train our dogs! But I could still take some lessions away.

1 comment:

  1. Sea lions! That must be really fun and cool to observe. Training is training, regardless of the animal! Planning is definitely key, and something I'm frequently lacking.